The power of partnership

Groups band together to remove business obstacles

By Rudy Garcia

I just had the opportunity to witness the reason I do what I do in the county.

I attended the Tuesday (Sept. 11) Planning Commission meeting where the issue on the table was a restatement of the rules pertaining to home studios zoned A1 (agricultural). The motion to amend the zoning was approved unanimously. That is the beginning of the end of the story. The proposal now goes in front of the Board of Supervisors in October for approval and implementation.

The beginning of the story started with a Fluvanna Leadership Development Program (FLDP) class project for Class 14. Mary Marks, member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Council (EDTAC), and her group, which included my wife Catherine, uncovered a large group of businesses in the county that were operating pretty much in violation of existing code. There are lots of reasons businesses choose to do that, but for the majority of the ones that shared why, it was related to the code requirements that often would require them to apply for a special use permit. Many were unwilling or unable to do the necessary paperwork and spend the time and subsequent dollars to go through that process.

Concurrently, another Class 14 project was the idea of an artisan-tourism trail. That group’s project found many of the same issues but specifically focused on the requirement for a special use permit for most home artisans.

The story continued through Class 15 and the project that Linda Staiger and her group worked on regarding an artisan’s trail. After their class graduated, a core group led by Linda started working on getting the code changed to allow for a by-right authority for artists and fine arts studios. They worked tirelessly for 14 months to get to where they were Tuesday night.
This is potentially a huge opportunity for our county. When our substantial artist community learns that the barrier to being a part of the larger business community has been reduced, I suspect that many of them will start to realize how much more potential there is to strut their stuff.

This is where the power of partnership comes in. For many years, the Chamber has partnered with FLDP and there has been a liberal cross-fertilization between the two groups. A by-product of that partnership has been the ability to build relationships between other organizations. The EDTAC members have a large number of FLDP graduates and current or former Chamber board members. That group was fully in support of this initiative.

The power of partnership doesn’t stop there. At the Planning Commission there were at least eight FLDP graduates, two Chamber board members, and three EDTAC members there in support. More importantly, on the Planning Commission I recognized three FLDP graduates.

The powerful partnerships that FLDP, the Chamber and the county have helped foster made a potentially huge change for our county’s business climate possible Tuesday night. That makes all the hard work worth it.


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